Thursday, August 27, 2009

Drinking the Orient

Do you need a reason to visit Asia? How about to drink a bunch of really disgusting beverages? Here are some exciting potables of the East to consider and enjoy.

1. Pepsi White

Did you ever think... I love the refreshment of Pepsi, but I wish it looked and tasted more like bull semen? Head to Japan, where you can enjoy the exhilarating taste of YOGURT-FLAVORED Pepsi White!

2. Kopi Luwak

But perhaps you prefer your caffeine with an air of excrement instead. If so, get yourself on over to the Philippines and enjoy the extremely precious Kopi Luwak coffee, made from beans that come from... you guessed it, a Palm Civet's ass. Here's my question. How did the first person to try this decide it would be a good idea?

3. Bilk
Did you ever look at a beer and wonder... "hmm, I wonder what this would taste like with milk in it?" Me neither.

4. Deer Penis Wine

China brings us a wondrous liquid delight in the form of Deer Penis Wine. You've heard the admonitions not to "eat the worm" from your tequila bottle? Well what happens in China, stays in China.

5. Vietnamese Sea Horse Whiskey

Well, after the Deer Penis Wine, choking this down should be no problem.

Friday, August 14, 2009

What Now, Eagles Fans?

If you're a sports fan, you've heard by now. Ex-con Michael Vick is a Philadelphia Eagle. As the above press conference shows, Mike is contrite and feels gratification [sic] for his second chance, and wants to make up for his cruelty to animals and he realizes that playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right.

Except we know this is all bullshit, right? I mean, yes, he's happy he's getting a chance to play in the NFL again, but do we really believe he feels remorse for his actions? Come on. He knew dog fighting was wrong before, and he knows now. He's not going to do it again, but probably because it screwed up his life so much and not because a year and a half of quiet reflection made him realize that torturing and fighting dogs for sport is morally bankrupt.

But does it matter? The reality is, the man has served his time. A judge decided a fair punishment and he paid it. Shouldn't he have the right to now reintegrate into society? Does it matter that he was convicted for animal torture rather than rape or murder?

Interestingly, some people feel that Vick is MORE vilified because of a crime against an an animal vs. a human rather than less. I'm not in that camp. I felt much more disgust when people were throwing money at Mike Tyson after he served his rape stretch than I do now. But in both cases, a guy who has done his time does have a right to try to make a living. The fact that this is easier for athletes than for say, construction workers may be frustrating, but it's still true.

By the same token, no one is obligated to support the move. If your local bakery decides to employ a convicted rapist after he is released, you have every right not to buy your cakes there. On the other hand, you're probably on iffy ethical grounds if you stand outside the store picketing to try to put the baker out of business unless he fires said employee.

Michael Vick is in the same position. He has every right to try to get a job, and the Eagles have every right to hire him. If you don't like it, you probably shouldn't go to Eagles games or buy his jersey. On the other hand, in an ironic twist, many people will probably be watching more Eagles games to see if Vick will fail, or if a linebacker will deliver a punishing hit for all the dog lovers out there.

Most likely, after a few weeks playing in the NFL, once the novelty has worn off, the story will fade and it will be business as usual, at least, until the next ex-con gets awarded his multi-million dollar deal.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Facing the Ace

There is a new poker show on NBC called Face the Ace. The premise is simple. A qualifier from FullTilt Poker is selected to compete against up to 3 professional players. If they beat the first player, they win $40,000. If they beat the 2nd player, they get $200,000, and the third player is worth a cool million. The player can walk away at any time, but if he loses to any of the three players he gets nothing. When I initially heard about this show, I thought it would not interest me, and I was going to let it go by. But, TiVo being easy to use, I figured I'd give it a shot.
I loved it. The main reason I loved it was because of the competitors. When I heard they were taking qualifiers from Full Tilt, I expected the usual parade of 20-something hotshots. Young guns barely old enough to shave talking about how no one can stand against their awesome aggression and how they've got the game of poker all figured out. You know who I'm talking about.

For one thing, it's impossible to root for these people (unless, I suppose, you happen to be one). For another you will find that the best poker players in the long term tend to be humble (look at Phil Ivey, Allen Cunningham, Doyle Brunson), so it's very difficult to believe that most of these younger players are not the beneficiaries of short term luck who will fade into obscurity the moment the odds tilt against them, therefore it's very hard to hear them expound on how they have mastered the game of poker. This being the case, I had no interest in seeing whether any of these people could win a million dollars, if these are the people who competed.
They weren't. Just the opposite.
The first player, Jonathan Nygaard, was a war veteran from Pennsylvania. The second, Don Topel, was a truck driver from Illinois. Both were over 30, baseball fans, and overweight. OH MY GOD! JUST LIKE REAL POKER PLAYERS!!!
If you walk into any casino anywhere in the world (and I've been in more than a few), these are the people you will see. Not a horde of brash 21 year olds in backwards caps and sunglasses staring overconfidently over huge stacks of chips, but middle Americans, husbands and fathers, a few wives and mothers, doctors, firemen, lawyers and janitors, senior citizens and yes, a few hopeful young kids in the mix. One of the great things about live poker is the way it puts people from widely disparate walks of life together. Another great thing about poker is that not everyone at the table is an overconfident douchebag, and that the people that are often end up going home relieved of their chip stacks.
Anyway, the first exciting thing about Face the Ace was that it had real people competing, people I would actually like to see win a million dollars. But the reality didn't stop there. Nygaard, clearly uncomfortable on television, had the misfortune to select Phil Ivey, who may be poker's next world champion, as his heads up opponent. From there, he showed the world just what real poker is like:
On the very first hand, Nygard got pocket Aces and limped to Ivey's A8. Ivey bet out, Nygaard check-raised, bet the safe flop, and took the pot. On the second hand, Ivey got rags and had to muck pre-flop. On the third hand, Nygaard got Queens, he limped, Ivey raised, Nygaard check-raised again, and Ivey moved in with A4. Nygaard insta-called and won the match.
Ivey's play couldn't have been more understandable. He was check-raised two out of three hands and naturally assumed his opponent had decided on a strategy of being hyper aggressive and attacking all of Ivey's raises. Ivey decided to take a stand early with his ace. The reality of course, is that Nygaard had the unlikely good fortune to actually have been dealt monsters on those two hands, and so he won the match. If he had not been dealt aces on hand one, it's likely things would have gone very differently.
Then, $40,000 in hand, Nygaard shockingly chose to drop and take the money. Considering that he already had beaten the best player on the panel and in short order, this choice was pretty surprising (and mathematically wrong; given the volatility of heads up play, it would be a mistake to pass on 5-to-1 odds against any opponent). It was unclear whether Nygaard chose to quit because he didnt realize how uncomfortable he would be on television (he covered his mouth frequently and gave slow, halting answers to host Steven Schirripa's questions), or he didn't realize how having $40,000 in hand would feel, but either way, it was a very real moment.
Don Topel managed to get past his first two opponents, Erick Lindgren and Howard Lederer, in similarly natural poker ways (the critical hand in the first match came when Lindgren made a move with a suited ace and Topel called with a bigger suited ace, Lingren hit his kicker on the turn but Topel made his flush on the river; the critical hand in the second match came when Topel got it all in pre-flop with KK against Lederer's AQ suited), with the result that Topel had the opportunity to go for a million dollar game, which he decided to do (some will say he was greedy, but again, this is the mathematically correct choice). That game will be played out on the next show.
I'll be watching, and rooting for Don, a likeable guy who wants to buy his mother and sister a home and who took the Schirripa (not entirely comfortable in the host role yet, it seems) ribbing about his weight with good humor. This really is a poker show that almost anyone can enjoy.
Naturally, the first episode of Face the Ace finished last in the ratings in its time slot.